Synthesizing sources means comparing and contrasting the work of other scholars to provide new insights.
It involves analyzing and interpreting the points of agreement and disagreement among sources.
For print sources, you can use your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords.
Lateral reading is the act of evaluating the credibility of a source by comparing it with other sources. This allows you to:
As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.
An abstract is a type of summary, but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing. For example, you might summarize a source in a paper, in a literature review, or as a standalone assignment.
All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer.
You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test, focusing on the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of a source of information.
Ask questions such as:
Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review. They are intended for a scholarly audience, include a full bibliography, and use scholarly or technical language. For these reasons, they are typically considered credible sources.
Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.
To determine whether a source is tertiary, ask:
Primary sources provide direct evidence about your research topic (photographs, personal letters, etc.).
Secondary sources interpret and comment on information from primary sources (academic books, journal articles, etc.).
Some examples of tertiary sources include:
It can sometimes be hard to distinguish accurate from inaccurate sources, especially online. Published articles are not always credible and can reflect a biased viewpoint without providing evidence to support their conclusions.
Information literacy is important because it helps you to be aware of such unreliable content and to evaluate sources effectively, both in an academic context and more generally.
Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.
Being information literate means that you:
When searching for sources in databases, think of specific keywords that are relevant to your topic, and consider variations on them or synonyms that might be relevant.
Once you have a clear idea of your research parameters and key terms, choose a database that is relevant to your research (e.g., Medline, JSTOR, Project MUSE).
Find out if the database has a “subject search” option. This can help to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to combine your keywords, exclude specific search terms, and search exact phrases to find the most relevant sources.
Proximity operators are specific words used alongside your chosen keywords that let you specify the proximity of one keyword in relation to another.
The most common proximity operators include NEAR (Nx), WITHIN (Wx), and SENTENCE.
Each proximity operator has a unique function. For example, Nx allows you to find sources that contain the specified keywords within a set number of words (x) of each other.
Boolean operators are specific words and symbols that you can use to expand or narrow your search parameters when using a database or search engine.
Each Boolean operator has a unique function. For example, the Boolean operator AND will provide search results containing both/all of your keywords.
A Boolean search uses specific words and symbols known as Boolean operators (e.g., AND, OR) alongside keywords to limit or expand search results. Boolean searches allow you to:
The CRAAP test has five main components:
A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.
Want to contact us directly? No problem. We are always here for you.
The Scribbr Plagiarism Checker is powered by elements of Turnitin’s Similarity Checker, namely the plagiarism detection software and the Internet Archive and Premium Scholarly Publications content databases.
The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js. It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.
You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github.